But what about TEH MENZ?!!!
Most people who read feminist blogs won’t even need me to explain this title. We see it every day.
International Women’s Day on the 8th of March turned Twitter into an amazing parade of support for women, delight in their progress towards equality and celebration of the women in each of our lives.
Elsewhere, it was business as usual. If you could have hashtagged “Why don’t men get a day, EH?” then it’d have been the global number one tag all over the internet. (They do get a day – November 19th – but that’s not my point here.) I’m writing this post so that next year I can just link it every time someone tells me feminism “isn’t needed” or is unfair to men in some way.
To the people (all of whom were men) who had to ask me what the title of this post meant: look at almost any online article about women’s rights or feminism. Chances are within the first few comments you will have a man asking “What about men’s rights?”
As the James Bond clip which did the rounds quotes: “Women perform 66% of the world’s work, earn 10% of world’s income and own 1% of the world’s property.” What about the men? Fine. Let’s reverse that for a new quote:
Men perform 33% of the world’s work, earn 90% of world’s income and own 99% of the world’s property.
They also suffer much less domestic violence, rape, genital mutilation, sexual shame, sex trafficking, and have far more control over their lives and bodies. Their options for work aren’t limited, they are not considered to automatically have a duty to represent their whole gender if they reach the top of a profession or political office, and aren’t scrutinised as mercilessly if their partner does.
They don’t face becoming part of the epidemic of rape during war, having their testimony count for half a man’s in court, legal challenges on precisely how much they are allowed to be beaten before it’s not acceptable, they’re far less likely to face being property, victims of honour killings and acid attacks, or living under social or legal pressure to hide their bodies from sight (or the more familiar pressure in the UK to expose them, provided they’re the ‘correct’ shape, if they want to be successful).
Speaking as a white cis male in a first world country, if you can’t see why feminism ‘is still needed’ globally then you haven’t tried looking for even a second. We may have a different set of inequalities at home, but that doesn’t mean they’re not just as pervasive and damaging in society. Is the UK some amazing bastion of freedom where women have no problems anymore? The Equality and Human Rights Commission says a BIG no.
Other people raised a much more valid secondary point during International Women’s Day, which was the hesitation a lot of men have about the word ‘feminism’. Even though the movement is about seeking equality, the term suggests seeking female superiority to a lot of people. It’s been debated constantly in feminist circles, but we sometimes forget that this instinctive mis-definition hasn’t changed in the minds of many of the mainstream. The argument about reclaiming it (and then making the version we want actually take root in the general public) is a whole post on its own, and not what I want to do here. We know that feminism has an image problem.
For our readers (of any gender) who may be in doubt, here is my personal definition: feminism is about womens’ right to live as human beings. To make choices about their own lives and bodies. Things which we would consider imprisonment or torture on ‘a person’ are inflicted on women every day, and equality is not going to happen without a lot of effort to fight that status quo. Reaching equality doesn’t take anything away from men that we should not be ashamed of and glad to lose anyway.
We haven’t gained this balance yet in the UK, and we’re catastrophically nowhere near it internationally.
It’s not just the men who need to learn this. I have several stories from female friends where it is women who are enforcing the partriachal norms on other women most harshly. Everyone has a long way to go before we get a situation which is more equal.
Can you seriously ask “What about the men?” Get the depressing stats on inequality: that 92% of our judges in the UK are white men from Oxford / Cambridge, that… look, this could go on forever.
In Egypt (where they recently had a revolution, with women very much involved at the front of it) they had the parades for International Women’s Day which have become traditional in many parts of the world. The women in the parade were heckled and threatened by men chanting anti-female slogans.
Men chanting against us were very furious. It offended them that we were calling for equal rights. … They were chanting “Down with Women”.
– @Egyptocracy on twitter
There are reports of violence, including sexual assaults. A comment from Equality Now‘s Facebook page: “That Egyptian women … grow up *expecting* to be fondled in public as a form of intimidation is just gut-wrenching.”
The main direction of this post will not be new to most feminists, and every area I’ve mentioned deserves a huge amount of debate, but I wanted to write something specifically for those people who can in all seriousness still ask “What about the men?”
Forget that question. There are very valid problems which are uniquely facing men in modern society, and I think some of them must be solved if we are to make progress in feminism, but really, my response to the people who seriously typed that line on International Women’s Day: stop hijacking every single goddamn thread about real issues with this inane question, there’s work to do!